Budget 2.0

Some drastic changes are nice. I’ve heard from a friend who graduated early that escaping these four walls makes for a nice change. The shift from a pre-internet world to a world with the all-knowing, all-amusing interwebs is undoubtedly one of the best things that happened to mankind.

But other major transitions are ill-advised and just plain unpleasant. The start of tennis season, for example, is a highly devastating change in lifestyle for me; I actually have to run farther than from the couch to the fridge. And no one should ever try an abrupt switch from “Eleanor Rigby” to “Disturbia”. The new redistribution of funds in the national budget seems like one of these types of ideas.

The current administration proposed a $54 billion increase in defense spending. This sounds like an enormous number, and it is. It sounds like it would be very hard to scrape together the money for such a large hike when the budget is already so tight and America is already operating at a huge deficit every year, like Daisy Buchanan on a shopping spree. So where is this money going to come from?

The president stated that it’s going to be coming from major budget cuts across many other departments including the state department, USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and other foreign aid programs. The most concerning thing about this is the implication that America is making the shift from a diplomatic outlook to a more warlike perspective.

The State Department is possibly the most important department in government. It carries out negotiations to keep conflicts from escalating to avoid the use of the military, which is liable to be costly in terms of both lives and funds, to ensure America is protecting its interests, and maintain rewarding alliances. USAID provides aid to poverty-stricken countries, financing efforts to improve global health, standards of education, nutrition and many other areas requiring urgent attention. America has a positive impact on the world through USAID and other foreign aid. And from a more cynical perspective, a humanitarian effort like this makes other countries like the U.S. more, which makes them more willing to cooperate with us. Efforts to connect with the rest of the world diplomatically have definite benefits for the U.S.

America’s military also does important work. However, their efforts, however helpful they may be to this country, are far costlier. Sending in troops is sure to lead to casualties. Even though the advent of drone warfare has led to the drastic reduction of human loss of life, going to war is prohibitively expensive. Regardless of the method, war drains countries, leaving even the winners sapped.  I don’t want to give you the idea that I’m a complete pacifist or something. Dirty word. I swear I’m not though. Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.

Even increasing our weapons stockpile could be counterproductive. We already have enough nuclear warheads to destroy the world. Building more, as the current administration has suggested, may stoke the suspicions of other countries and lead them to cooperate less fully with us.

Research and development to stay ahead of the rest of the world in terms of military technology is important, but our military budget is already larger than those of the next five largest spenders combined. Do we really need to increase it by another 10 percent and basically add a quarter pound of cheesecake to top off a gallon mug of chocolate milkshake?

When evaluating budgeting decisions that debate the merits of the soft power of diplomacy against the hard power of the military, it’s important to keep in mind incidents like the Iranian hostage crisis. When 52 Americans were held captive in 1979 during the Iranian Revolution for over a year, President Carter sent in the military on a botched rescue mission that led to eight deaths. President Reagan’s negotiations are what led to the eventual release of the hostages. It was diplomacy, not brute force, that solved what seemed to be an impossible situation. A test of simple efficacy proves that this shift from diplomacy to militarism is ill-advised.

If you’re over 16 and have a job, you pay income taxes. It’s YOUR money that’s being taken away from the departments and agencies that promote America’s interests the most, and is being handed over to a department that doesn’t need it. YOU need to be concerned about where YOUR money is going, and what that’ll do to YOUR country. And if you disagree with current policy, then make sure your opinion is heard, because opinions do make a difference.

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